Advice on Doing a Yoga Photo Shoot

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Have you ever starred in your own photo shoot?

Photo shoots are a lot of fun, but I'll admit, if you're new to being in front of the camera, it can be intimidating.

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Since I started Alive in the Fire, I've done quite a few yoga photography shoots in order to build a library of images to use here. 

Whether you're a yoga teacher looking to build your website, or you're a professional in need of a good head shot, or maybe you just want to create an incredible gift using family portraits, these pointers will be helpful in making the experience fun and effortless. 

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Photo shoots are great — they truly do build your confidence, and you'll find yourself coming back to the images over and over.

Here are my tips for how to make your photo shoot experience a blast.

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Before The Shoot

  • Find a photographer you're comfortable around. I love working with photographers who are easy to talk to and who make me laugh. Feeling at ease while you're on the shoot is essential to creating images that feel effortless. If possible, meet with your photographer before the shoot so you can get to know each other a little bit.
  • Make a list of postures you want to capture during the shoot. If you're shooting yoga poses, it's easy to have a lot of awesome ideas beforehand and then show up and completely forget what you wanted to do. I'm notorious for this. I'll have a whole list in my mind but then when I'm on location, I have trouble recalling what the poses were. What can happen is I end up shooting poses I've already done many times. I recommend writing down your list of poses, putting them on your phone, or creating a Pinterest board of ideas to reference during the shoot.
  • Consider your location. It's fun to shoot indoors at a studio and it's also awesome to shoot outside, whether in an urban setting or in nature. Be creative with your location-- the colors, textures, and objects (or people!) surrounding you will create the look and feel of your images.
  • Plan 3 or 4 outfits. I always like to bring a variety of things to wear during a shoot. Some photographers will tell you exactly how many outfits they want you to have -- I recommend bringing an extra as well, just so that if you try something and find it's uncomfortable the day of, or doesn't quite work, you have a backup.

On the Day of the Shoot

  • Do a simple warm-up practice before the shoot. It's nice to show up for your photo shoot having done a few sun salutations, backbends and balancing poses. Depending on your stamina, you might even want to take a class at the studio the morning of the shoot, so that you're super warm. But keep in mind that an hour or two of photo shoot yoga feels a lot different than your usual practice -- you'll be holding postures for longer, and jumping around between things rather than finding the rhythm of a standard class. With that in mind...
  • Pace yourself. I had a revelation at my last photo shoot: for me, it's helpful to do the harder poses first. In the future, I'll start a photo shoot with inversions and arm balances since I'm most energized at the beginning. Maybe that method works for you, or maybe you're the opposite (you need to work up to the harder poses). Keep in mind that you'll need breaks, water, and maybe a snack during your shoot. 
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  • Best advice ever: breathe! Yoga is a practice of breathing deeply, and being in the moment. But something about putting your yoga practice in front of the camera inevitably brings on nerves, which can cause you to hold your breath. If you're holding your breath, your body tends to stiffen and your facial expression looks uncomfortable. If there's one piece of magic advice that I'd give to anyone doing a photo shoot, it's to BREATHE! Take your time coming into a pose, and use your breath for support. You can even ask your photographer to remind you to breathe-- it will help you both!
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  • This is a big one... you're beautiful. Just the way you are, in your practice, right now, here, today. Go ahead and read that sentence again, and see if you believe it. :) We have so much input from images online, on Facebook and on Instagram telling us that we aren't 'good enough' or that our poses could be 'better.' Please please please don't get into that mindset and into those head games while you're being photographed. Adopt a sense of loving kindness toward yourself. Just be present in your body, breathe into the postures, and let yourself be real. You ARE beautiful and you'll be stunned by what is captured. Just let go of the need to control or force any of it and enjoy the day!
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  • Go with it. Unexpected things will happen while you're shooting-- maybe someone walks in front of you if you're out in public, or people wave and yell at you :) Maybe your clothing malfunctions, your hair or makeup gets messed up, or the camera has technical issues. Let these moments be a chance to really put your yoga practice to work-- relax, take a deep breath, and make the best of it.
  • Be creative. Sometimes the unplanned images are the most beautiful and authentic. While of course you want to capture everything on your list of poses, you may also discover that in the organic process of flowing from one pose to another, or moving from one location to another, you find an incredible, raw, fun image to capture. Some of my favorite shots were total spur-of-the-moment candids, like hopping up on a bench and doing crow pose, or randomly using the space between buildings as the perfect spot for an inversion. Keep your eyes open to what's around you, and be creative!
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  • Clear the area around where you're shooting (ie camera bag, shoes, water bottle, sunglasses, backpack). This is more of a technical/ practical tip, but keep in mind it's way easier to set up the frame for your shot while you're there in person than to spend a bunch of time Photoshopping later!
  • Bring a friend... or a prop :) It can be really fun to do partner yoga photos and it's also great to mix things up with a prop, scarf, set of mala beads, candle, or altar. Again, the more creative you can be, the better!
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After the Shoot

  • Grab lunch or a drink.  Relax. Celebrate - you did it! You are awesome.
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  • Reflect on the experience. Journal or talk to a friend. How did you feel during the photo shoot? What were your favorite moments? What challenges came up?
  • Be patient when waiting to hear back from your photographer. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to get your photos back. It's best to have a clear conversation right after the shoot ends, so that you're on the same page about what timing to expect.
  • Spend a few moments in gratitude. You have an amazing practice, and what a beautiful body, mind, and spirit you're sharing in these photos. Give thanks!
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I hope you have a blast during your photo shoot, and I'd love to hear how it goes!

Any other tips? Or do you have any questions for me? Feel free to comment below!

Photo credits: 

Photos (1 and 3 and 9) by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_coast.

Photos (2 and 4 and 11) by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

Photo (5) by Ken Johnson of CKC Image.

Photos (6 and 7) by Kate Donaldson.

Photo (8) by Stephanie Sheveland. 

Photo (10) by Kimberly Lewis of @photosfromkim.

Photo (12) by Christina Scellato.